Everything You Need to Know About Assisted Deliveries

This blog post is to help you prepare for the ‘what if’ scenario if you need an assisted delivery for the birth of your baby.

An assisted delivery means when a doctor uses an instrument such as forceps or ventouse cup (sometimes called a Kiwi cup) to deliver your baby’s head. Around one in eight women deliver their baby in this way in the UK. This can be because

  • there are concerns about the baby’s heart rate
  • your baby is in an awkward position
  • you’re too exhausted and have been pushing for a long time

A forceps consists of two smooth metal long ‘salad spoon’ type instruments which are curved to shape around the sides of your baby’s head.

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These are fitted carefully by the doctor and the handles of the forceps are then locked together securely. As you get a contraction the doctor will gently pull down onto the forceps as you push to guide your baby’s head to entrance of your vagina. When your baby’s head begins to crown and stretch your perineum the doctor may make a cut called an episiotomy to make the space in your vagina and perineum to allow for the baby’s head to be born. Once to the head is delivered the doctor will remove the forceps from around your baby’s head and wait for another contraction to deliver the shoulders and rest of your baby.

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN HAVING A FORCEPS DELIVERY:

  • you are more likely to have an episiotomy which will require stitches which are done by the doctor (these are disolveable.)
  • if you don’t have an epidural, local anaesthetic will be injected into the area before the doctor makes the cut so you not feel it
  • you are more likely to bleed from the ‘cut’ (episiotomy) therefore your overall blood loss will be more
  • if after 3 pulls the baby cannot be delivered in this way the delivery should be abandoned and a caesarean section should be considered
  • therefore most forceps deliveries happen in theatre for this reason
  • you should still be able to have skin to skin with your baby
  • your can still have delayed cord clamping
  • your birth partner can cut the cord
  • you will require a catheter to be inserted into your urethra to empty your bladder of urine which usually stays in for 12 hours following the birth of your baby
  • you have an increase chance of having short term incontinence problems such as not be able to control your wind or bowel movements
  • you may feel more internal and external bruising from the forceps delivery than a ‘natural’ delivery
  • you may therefore need stronger pain relief after the delivery to make you more comfortable especially when sitting to feed your baby or going to the toilet
  • your baby is likely to be born with some markings on its face such as bruising on the side of the forehead and circular red marks around the cheeks. These should go after 24-48 hours
  • due to bruising around your baby’ jaw and mouth they can find breastfeeding more difficult and you both may require extra support. Some women choose to use a Cranial Osteopath once discharged from hospital

A ventouse delivery (or kiwi cup) is when a doctor applies a small silicone cup to the top of your baby’s head inside your vagina. Once the cup is in place, the air is sucked out of it using a foot-controlled vacuum pump, or a hand-held pump.

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It can be noisy if a machine is used, so be prepared. When it is securely fixed, the doctor will ask you to push with your next contraction. The doctor will pull on the cup to help your baby out. Sometimes the cup comes off the baby’s head, which even if it sounds alarming, won’t cause any harm to your baby. After 3 pulls the baby’s head should begin to crown and stretch the perineum. Unlike a forceps birth where more space is require, with a ventouse delivery you are less likely to need an episiotomy. As the head is delivered the cup is removed so the doctor can deliver the rest of your baby.

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN HAVING A VENTOUSE DELIVERY:

  • it can often be performed in the delivery room rather than theatre
  • it is more likely to leave your baby with a temporary swelling on her head (cephalhaematoma).
  • and more likely to cause bleeding inside your baby’s eye (retinal haemorrhage) which look like blood shot in the whites of your baby’s eyes
  • you may not always need an episiotomy as less space is required of the instrument being used by the doctor
  • you may still need a catheter inserted for up to 12 hours following the birth
  • you should still be able to have skin to skin with your baby
  • your should still be able to have delayed cord clamping
  • your birth partner can still cut the cord

It is important to remember that if a doctor recommends an instrumental delivery you still have the choice to question their decision and where possible take time with your midwife and birth partner to discuss what is best for you and your baby. A good acronym to remember and to use at any point of your pregnancy or labour is BRAIN.

B – what are the benefits of doing what you recommend?
R – what are the risks?
A – what are the alternatives?
I – what does my intuition tell me?
N – what happens if we do nothing?

Sometimes it’s not always possible to avoid an assisted birth but good planning and preparation during your pregnancy can help you and your partner understand the options available to you. For example having an epidural increases your chance of having as assisted delivery because:

  • It may slow your labour down, especially the second stage of labour when you have to start pushing, because it can be very difficult to know if you’re pushing correctly as you are numb in the area you need to focus on
  • It increases the risk of your baby moving into the wrong position and therefore forceps or ventouse may be required to help turn the baby into a better position

But it’s equally important to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages. No one is going to think you’ve given up or couldn’t do it if you require an instrumental delivery. And the same goes for an epidural. Your birth is about it being positive for you and I have been at many many births where women had an epidural and a ventouse delivery and it’s been wonderful, beautiful and empowering. Milli Hill founder of The Positive Birth Movement says ” A good birth doesn’t have to be a hippy dippy ‘natural’ birth, all candles, knitting midwives and placenta smoothies. Many women who have hospital births that don’t go the way they planned and end in interventions such as an instrumental delivery, report feeling positive about what happened. Milli goes on to explain why, “This is because how a woman is spoken to and treated as she has her baby is much much more important than the actual mode of delivery. Women need to feel that they have been consulted, respected and given the information they need to make free choices in the best interest of themselves and their child. This allows them to begin motherhood feeling strong, capable and mentally healthy.”

And also please be reassured that eight out of 10 women who have an assisted birth have a normal birth next time around.

Has anyone else had an assisted delivery and would like to share their experience? Any tips on coping afterwards?

For more information about assisted deliveries please see:

NHS Choices

NCT Assisted Vaginal Birth

 

It’s Been Emotional

To say the least. I feel drained, emotionally and physically. I haven’t felt like this in a while but it was bound to happen soon, it was my time to feel the smash, bang, wallop. My job, my role as a midwife pushed me pretty hard on Monday.

My woman, my couple finally had their baby on Monday evening after a gruelling 3 day stop-start labour. For her, for them as a couple it was as difficult as labours can go. They worked together like the A Team, supported each other every step of the way. It was amazing to watch.

The labour went on longer than expected, I missed putting my girls to bed that evening to see this baby be born. My husband (the silent hero) dealt with bath and bed time as he knew I couldn’t leave. Thank you Mr H for holding the fort and making sure the girls brushed their teeth and were tucked up warm and cosy in their little beds.

And finally when their baby arrived that evening, my heart which had been in my throat, exploded and my eyes filled with tears of relief and joy. He was pink, a little cross with his exit route but he was perfect. The emotion wasn’t helped by Adele’s Make You Feel My Love coming on the radio the moment he was passed to me by the surgeon. Handing them their little man was a very proud moment.

No birth is ever the same, and sometimes things aren’t ok at different points of the labour. Supporting couples when this happens is tough because you want to tell them everything is fine but you just don’t know. Reaching that end point on Monday and seeing my couple gazing at their brand new baby was the best feeling in the world. I left feeling exhausted but hugely satisfied.

And when I got home to a delicious meal cooked by Mr H, I tip toed into my girls bedrooms and sniffed their sweaty little heads and thanked them for being such angels and understanding why Mummy wasn’t there this evening.

Being a midwife is much more than just delivering babies but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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What I Learnt From Giving Birth

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You would think being a midwife gives you a sort of special pass or ‘access all areas’ into what your own birth is going to be like. Well in some ways yes it did, but in many ways it really didn’t prepare me at all. After all I was just a woman giving birth. Here’s some things I learnt from giving birth and how it changed my practice as a midwife and what I tell women.

I wish I had stayed at home longer…..This is such a classic mistake all first time mums do in early labour. My husband was making the house all cosy with candles and music but for some reason I just wanted to get to the birthing centre. It’s like I felt I needed to be there surrounded by the midwives I love and trusted and to be given the permission to know I was in actual labour. Even though I knew an examination might not always tell me how long my labour was, I had to know. In fact I was 5 cm which in theory is established labour but my contractions were crap, 2 in 10 and never got closer together all day. The examination isn’t always representative of how long your labour will be.

I wish I’d known that having your waters broken isn’t such a bad thing…….I held off having my water’s broken because I wanted as little intervention as possible, but after 8 hours of still only being 5cm I was tired and frustrated so I asked them to be broken and what a change that was! The contractions very quickly became 4 in 10 bang bang bang! Like a huge hammer was being smashed against my back, I thought ‘oh no the baby is in the back to back position and I’m going to need an epidural’. The contractions were so full on like nothing I had expected and then all of a sudden one felt different, more expulsive and I felt the pain in my back move further down into my sacrum and pelvis like my pelvis was widening. All the time my midwife head was thinking ‘the baby is OP and I’m going to want to push way before it’s time’…… Time was so apparent throughout this labour, at one point my midwife took the clock off the wall as I was becoming obsessed with the time which was preventing me from ‘letting go’.

Listening to my body and having a sleep at 10cm……..Waiting and letting my body rest when the contractions went off a bit in transition was brilliant, my body was tired and was preparing me for the next big part of labour, pushing! I laid on my side on a bean bag and mat I slept for a 15 minutes. There was no rush to get me mobilising, I now really listen to what women say to me at this point of their labour. Always trust the woman; she will know her body better than anyone else.

Howling and screaming is not a sign that I wasn’t coping……..Hearing women make noises was something I was use to as a midwife but hearing the animal sounds coming from my own lungs was quite empowering, like a lioness I roared as the urge to push became overwhelming. It wasn’t a case of ‘oh she’s not coping that’s why she’s so vocal’ it was a case of this baby is coming no matter what! My midwives said to me ‘your body will push your baby out you don’t even need to think about it’. They were so right, I had no control over my body and each contraction pushed her further and further down. The sensation didn’t feel like I needed a poo at all (which is something I use to say a lot to women) but like a brick was being pushed against my pelvic floor.

Pushing a melon out of an opening the size of an orange is totally fine…….The pushing bit is definitely easier than the contractions, your body takes over at this point and even when you can feel the head rocking back and forth just before it crowns and you think ‘oh my god if I have to do one more push I’m going to die’ and suddenly the head is out! And the burning and stretching wasn’t so bad. I was so impatient I couldn’t wait for another contraction so I pushed and her shoulders rotated then the rest of her wet slippery  body followed! It was amazing, totally unreal and so empowering. ‘I did it’ I kept saying over and over as I looked down at this dark haired pink squidgy baby.

So You Want To Be A Midwife?

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How my life has looked for the past 3 days

And relax.

I’ve just finished a mammoth 3 nights on call and I’m shattered. It was up for every one of them, you could say we’ve been busy in our little team. I don’t think you realise how exhausting this job can be when you’re training to be a midwife, I certainly didn’t. Back then when I was a naive 21 year old, the only person I had to get up and dressed in the morning was myself and that was sometime a chore (especially if we had been out to Vodka Revolutions the night before, Vodka and a mixer for 50p, bargain!) Now I have to co-ordinate my shifts with my husbands work schedule, throw 2 children in the mix and it sounds like a recipe for disaster. But we somehow manage.

I often get asked ‘why did you become a midwife?’ and others ask what the training was really like. Programmes such as ‘Call the Midwife’, ‘One Born Every Minute’ and ‘The Midwives’ have increased the public’s knowledge of what midwives really do and according to The Royal College of Midwives the number of applications for starting a midwifery degree has shot up! This is excellent as there is still a national shortage of midwives.

Kathryn over at The Vintage Midwife shares her views on midwifery training and why she loves her job despite the long hours and hard work.

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‘I was recently contacted by someone who wants to be a midwife and I have been wondering what to say to her.  Midwifery training is incredibly popular at the moment, no doubt thanks in part to Call The Midwife and One Born Every Minute.  I have lost count of the number of people who have said to me ‘I would love to do your job…’ with a wistful look in their eye.  At our local university over 1,000 people applied for the 50 spaces available on the next Midwifery course.

But I wonder if there is any other job that is so romanticized and where the harsh reality of life on the shop floor is so different to what we hope for?

I don’t think people always fully appreciate the enormous RESPONSIBILITY that you have as a midwife.  At times it can feel overwhelming.  You are responsible not only for the health and safety of that woman but also for her baby.  You may be responsible for a baby dying or being severely disabled.  Just let that sink in for a moment, it’s quite a big deal huh?

Sometimes, despite the best care babies can be born in an unexpectedly poor condition and I know of several very good midwives that have been involved in these tragic cases. This involves investigations, court cases, a very hard and long process before their name is cleared.

Childbirth is a natural, normal function that is a momentous event for a woman and her family.  But in the litigation fearing, policy following, hugely overworked, overstretched and understaffed NHS then this can often feel lost.

The heartbreaking fact for midwives is that if you have only 15 mins per antenatal appointment, have to do 13 postnatal visits in a morning, look after 10 women and babies on a postnatal ward, catch 3 babies on a night shift then you just simply can not give the care that you know these women and babies deserve. Meanwhile you are answering endless phone calls, buzzers, doorbells, doing reams of paperwork, hunting for missing equipment, mopping blood up, chasing social workers, teaching students…

All of this in a twelve hour shift without time even for a wee and only a handful of Quality Street to eat all day.  Working loads of weekends, night shifts, Christmas Day, New Years Eve.  Still want to do it?  Have I put you off yet?

I decided I wanted to be a midwife when I saw a baby being born whilst training as a student nurse, fresh out of school. I was just 18 and it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen.  Like a magic trick, a baby appearing out of a woman’s body.  I have lost count of the number of babies I have seen born since then, it must be several hundred.  And do you know what?  I still find it as exciting as that first time I saw it.  When you see that tiny scrap of hair, that new life emerging, knowing that you are the first person to see this new person, it never loses its thrill.

Yes it’s hard work and nothing like the ‘lovely’ job people often imagine it to be but I still want to be a midwife.’

24 hours On Call

What a little flurry of excitement it has been since Monday morning! Having had a child free weekend recovering from my horrible mouth infection (which I spent mainly snoozing on the sofa and watching re runs of Friends episodes), I was all geared up for a full day back at work on being on call by myself. Not quite as full on as I had expected!

Monday 9am: Up, dressed, 2 kids dressed, 2 breakfasts gobbled, 2 pack lunches made, 2 drop offs and full of beans ready for what the day might bring. I spoke to one of my women who had been niggling (a midwife term meaning irregular contractions but not yet establishing) all weekend but no sign of baby. My other 2 colleagues were at the hospital handing over from a birth they had over night so I did a few antenatal visits then popped over to see my woman in early labour. After a cup of tea and a full midwives assessment, I found her to be 9cm dilated! A little surprising for us all but thrilling for her and her husband so plans were made to go to the local hospital and we bagged a room with a pool. 5 hours later there was no sign of baby and with my energy levels flagging my lovely colleague arrived to take over so I could go home to rest.

Monday 5pm: Kids home from holiday club and nursery, husband with a bad back, tea being made whilst my mind was thinking about my poor woman at hospital. Gobbled down a bowl of pasta pesto (essential carbs) and off I went back to the hospital to take over from my colleague for the night

Monday 7pm: Arrived back at the hospital to be met with the news that we were going to theatre for a ‘trial’, A trial means the doctors need to perform an assisted delivery (ventouse or forceps) but in theatre in case it doesn’t work they are in the right place to perform a caesarean section.

Monday 7:30pm: Baby Martha weighing a whopping 9lbs was born with a little assistance but not a caesarean thank goodness! Mum and Dad thrilled! Midwife thrilled but the night was still young.

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Monday 11:30pm: Pager goes off to notify me that one of our women is in labour. I finish my notes take my lady to the postnatal ward and gear up my energy for another labour. Glad I have carbs in my system! The labour in surprisingly quick but lots of ‘you can do its’ and ‘one more push and your baby will be here’. Phew I was wacked but looked forward to getting home and hitting my pillow. Sleep is most definitely not for the weak. When I’m on call I try to forget that my pager can alarm me at any moment and I put it on the other side of the room. Out of sight out of mind.

Tuesday 1:30am: I’m finally in bed, fast asleep.

Tuesday 4:09am: Pager goes off. I jolt up in bed. Takes me a few second to realise what this means. The pager message tells me one our women is in labour at home and needs me. Luckily it’s just around the corner, so I’m up dressed and in her bathroom by 4:20. She is in strong labour and this is her second baby so the birth is imminent. Her amazing husband finds towels, an old rug and plastic sheeting to protect the carpet. A second midwife arrives and by 5:30am a beautiful baby girl is born in the family bedroom. The morning light fills the room and tears of joy wept by all us soak our grinning cheeks as the woman cries ‘I did it’. Tea and Jaffa cakes are shared as we all embrace what an incredible job she has done and how lucky us midwives are to be have been part of it all. Granny and Grandpa arrive and the big brother awakes to great his new baby sister. It was really a perfect setting.

Tuesday 6:30am: My adrenaline starts to fade and the sheer exhaustion of the last 21 hours kicks in. With the family safely tucked up in bed, my colleague arrives on her bike to take the placenta away with her (yes really!) and I leave with my half empty delivery kit.

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Tuesday 07:30am: I’m back in my bed again and the girls are up and bouncing with excitement eager to hear all about my night. They love hearing about the baby catching Mummy has been doing. Eventually my husband (the unsung hero of this all) took them off to nursery and holiday club and with my eye patch and ear plugs firmly in place, I could finally go to sleep. But not without thinking of this moto brilliantly printed on a bag given to me as a present from one of my women.

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The Midwives Royal Sweep!

Fancy a sweep?

Fancy a sweep?

Hello universe. Are you aware that the Royal baby is due to be evicted from the Royal womb any day now? Are you checking Sky News, Daily Mail and Twitter the moment you wake in desperation for the news that it has been born? Nope? Just me? I feel like I’m on call for lovely Kate and William, anxiously waiting for her to page me saying she’s had a ‘show’. Or possible regular contractions. Or water breaking. Or any news!!!!!

I can barely sleep at night. And I’m not the only one going Royal baby gaga for any news. The press are camped outside St Mary’s hospital in Paddington, like hysterical One Direction fans waiting to catch a glimpse of Harry Styles in his undies at the hotel window.

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Here at Gas and Air, I’ve decided to a do little competition to see if any of you clever readers can guess the Royal baby name and second name. And what’s even better, is that I’ve got some of my all time essential products for bumps and babies to give away as a prize! Trust me, you’re all going to want to get your paws on this little beauty!

All you have to do is think of yourself as a Prince or Princess, and name that baby! Something traditional? George? Alexander? Jemima? Or more trendy Mungo? India? Coco? You can guess up to 2 names. But don’t hang around she is due any day now…………

Click on the link below and follow the instructions. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Birth Story Of The Week – Stacey and Elijah

Has she popped yet? Twitter has been going crazy with rumours that Kate Middleton is in labour. Helicopters were seen near her parents house and the press continue to wait out the entrance of Paddington’s St Mary’s Hospital where she is due to deliver. But Prince William’s appearance at a polo match yesterday was a pretty good sign that things were all quiet in the Royal womb.

Well here is a lovely birth story written by a fellow midwife who I trained with and lived with back in the day. Actually it wasn’t that long ago but it feels it since we’ve both become mothers and done a lot of growing up since then! Stacey is a midwife on a postnatal ward in Bristol and here she tells her birth story of Elijah. Even very fast births may not always be the best, so be careful what you wish for.

Stacey and Elijah

Stacey and Elijah

So, my thoughts on the pregnancy…Easy, thoroughly enjoyable, amazing. My thoughts on the pending labour…petrifying, fearful, adamant I wasn’t going to go through with it. 

As a midwife, I have seen pretty much every type of labour- quick and easy, long and tough. I was sure I was going to have a tough one and had scared myself stupid.
Well, at 39 weeks I had my friend pop up for a couple of days. The husband decided to be rushed to hospital with a dodgy ticker (all is fine now!) and we jokingly said how this was enough to get me into labour- the next morning, some mild period pains kicked in. Nothing a little wheat pack and paracetamol couldn’t sort out! I found out at 11am I was 5cm but not contracting- hallelujah!! As great as this sounds, I had no idea what to do. It wasn’t what all the books say, surely I should be screaming for an epidural by this point?! So, as all women who are 5cm dilated…the husband was off work on a sick day (due to the dodgy ticker!) and I made sure he went and got his haircut. Then off we popped to a friend’s house for lunch. 

5cm dilated!

5cm dilated!

So, sat contracting every 5minutes but nothing particularly exciting, eating my tuna sandwich! Surreal. 

By 5pm we went home and things had settled. Husband suggested he had a nap, so I had a bath. The contractions had come back by 6pm and they were every 2-3minutes by 7pm! We got to the hospital by 7:30 and had a lovely waterbirth by 8:45. For me, I was most comfortable when in the pool. I didn’t want pain relief- if I’m honest, I wasn’t actually in pain. Does a pain free labour really exist? Being with my friends, my husband, using water and using pregnancy yoga techniques- I had what I would say was an hour and a half labour. Wow! Baby Elijah arrived weighing 8lb 0oz.

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As many people would say I had the perfect labour, I wish it was slower, I wish I had time to register what was happening. I went home the next day and felt as though I’d stolen a baby from work- the whole process was too surreal and made bonding tough. He’s fantastic and we’re like best friends now…as for extending the family, that won’t be for a while, but I think it might have to include a waterbirth at home!!’

The Naughtiest Little Piglet

Once upon a time there was a little bean who lived in her Mummy’s tummy, she was called Piglet.

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Piglet liked to make her Mummy very very sick, so sick that her Mummy (who worked on a busy labour ward) had to dash into the bathroom in between coordinating the shift to be sick. Poor old Mummy. But then the Mummy started to feel better, her blue eyes sparkled again and she blossomed as her bump grew.

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Piglet was very wriggly and loved moving about in her new warm, dark, cosy bed. She wriggled and wriggled until she got into a comfortable position, her bottom firmly down and her little head bobbing up. But that position was not want her Mummy or her Mummy’s midwives really were hoping for. So one day a very clever doctor with his very clever hands turned Piglet the other way around, bottoms up! And there she stayed. But Piglet had still not finished being naughty. Oh no, she decided that growing wasn’t something she was too keen on and wanted to stay little.

Naughty little Piglet had everyone worried. Her Mummy and Daddy were very worried, the doctors with the big scanning machines were worried and even the midwives were worried. So D day came and the naughty little Piglet had to leave her warm, dark, cosy bed. Her Mummy went to the hospital and had some magic medicine to make little Piglet come out.

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Luckily for her Mummy and Daddy Piglet’s arrival was very quick, her midwives just only got there in time! And the naughty little Piglet was born on the 28th of May at 14:51 weighing a tiny 5lbs 4onz. They named her Charlotte Elizabeth and she was beautiful just her Mummy!

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And Charlotte and her Mummy and Daddy lived happily ever after.

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Guest Post- How I ended up as a Midwife’s Assistant

I often get asked by people ‘Why did you become a midwife’?  To be honest the answer has changed over the years but I knew I always wanted to work with children and I knew I loved babies. But now it’s much more about the women. For me, at just the tender age of 18 (gulp) there was no gap year to be had after finishing my A-Levels, it was straight to Uni in Bristol as I wanted to embark on this exciting course. As midwifery is a vocational degree I knew I would have a job at the end of it all and to be honest I couldn’t wait to get stuck in.

It’s mad to think the whole of my working life to date has been midwifery based.  How can you really know at 18 what you want to do for the rest of your life?  For many midwives I’ve met along the way they didn’t know, and left all sorts of jobs to re train as a midwife. Louie is one of those people, she hasn’t started her midwifery course yet….. she has decided to embark on a career change as a Midwife Support Worker. Louie joined our case loading team in December to support us 6 midwives. Is she brave or just mad? Either way she’s amazing. Here’s her side of the story.

I was terrified of blood and it meant taking a pay cut – but it’s been worth it!

Louie and Florence

Louie and Florence

After uni, I wanted to rebel against my teacher parents and enter a ‘glamorous’ profession so I did a post-grad in journalism and got a job on Take a Break, the weekly magazine you might have read at the dentist. It wasn’t exactly Marie Claire, but as a Features Writer, I got invited to PR launches, bagged lots of freebies and even wangled a press trip to Spain. As for the work, I helped reunite long-lost relatives, chased a stolen child across Italy and tracked down a paedophile. The hours were regular, the pay was good and I spent most Friday afternoons down the pub. What more could a 25 year old want?

But the job had big downsides too. I was often asked to ring a recently bereaved relative to ask if they wanted to tell their story (ambulance chasing as it’s known in the business). A few – amazingly – said yes, but a lot told me where to go. When I did convince someone to speak, I felt uncomfortable asking them the lurid questions I needed answering in order to make the story as sensational as possible. After about five years, I knew I needed to change careers – but to what?

Then in 2008, I had my first child, Arthur, closely followed by Florence in 2009. During my pregnancies and labours, I met some amazing midwives but also some rude and unhelpful ones. It struck me how much power a midwife has to make your experience a magical or an upsetting one. To try and make sure more women got a magical experience, I started volunteering at my local hospital, sitting on a committee whose aim was improve maternity services there. I walked round the postnatal ward, asking women their opinions and fed them back to the staff . I loved hearing everyone’s birth stories and discussing important issues. It was all the things I had enjoyed about journalism – but without any of the downsides.

It was while doing this that an idea started forming in my mind: I wanted to be a midwife. There was just one problem – I was terrified of blood. Everyone in my family is a big wuss: I still remember my dad sitting with his head between his knees, trying not to throw up because my Mum had tripped over and broken her tooth. As for me, I’d had to lie down after blood tests during my pregnancies. Not exactly the stern stuff midwives have to be made of!

And yet, I couldn’t shake the idea. So when I heard about a role called a Maternity Support Worker (MSW), I decided to apply. It meant assisting midwives with everything from weighing babies to removing catheters and – eek! – taking blood. Would I faint or could I be the first person in my family to ever work in a hospital? There was only one way to find out!

On my first day in the job, I was absolutely petrified. I managed not to faint but I did have to leave the room when a midwife was describing a particularly nasty obstetric emergency. I persevered, though, and gradually got used to talking about – and seeing – lots of blood. They say the best way to overcome your fears is to confront them head on – and working on a postnatal ward was definitely that for me!

The first time I actually had to take blood from someone, I was convinced I would hit an artery and see blood go splashing everywhere. But somehow, I managed to stay calm and do the job – although my hands were slippery with sweat afterwards!

With that fear conquered, I felt optimistic I could do other stuff without fainting too. A few weeks in, I watched a caesarean section and found myself more fascinated than scared. The same was true when I watched a normal birth – I was just in awe, both of the woman giving birth but also of the brilliant midwives I saw helping her.

I worked in the hospital for four months and then was given a role helping a small team of community midwives who do a lot of homebirths. Now I spend my days driving around, giving breastfeeding advice to women and doing the heel prick test on newborns. The midwives I work with are some of the most inspiring women I’ve come across and I adore helping women in those precious early days following a baby’s birth.

The pay’s not amazing but even a bad day in my new job is better than the best day I ever had doing journalism. I really like the fact I’m helping people and it’s invigorating learning so many new things every day.

Will I train to be a midwife? Who knows. For now, I’m loving my role as an MSW and would recommend it to anyone. And at least if I do go the whole hog and retrain, I know I won’t faint at the first drop of blood!

For more information about training as a Midwife Support Worker go to nhscareers.nhs.uk

An Open Letter To Kate Middleton

Dear Kate

Firstly, I would like to congratulate you on choosing some great maternity dresses throughout this pregnancy. Re cycling your Top Shop polka dot dress went down a storm, I bet Sir Phillip Green couldn’t believe his luck.

I hope you’re enjoying your ‘nesting period’ now that you’ve finished your last public engagement before the baby is born. I also hope William isn’t spending too much time whizzing around in helicopters rescuing stranded people while you are on your hands and knees scrubbing the Royal floor boards to encourage your baby to get into the right position for labour. Don’t worry, I know you may be tempted to sniff the bottle of Bathroom Bleach due to those uncontrollable urges, it’s just those crazy hormones. Your body does not really want you to eat soap.

photo (5)Really embrace this time to perfect your Hypno-birthing techniques with William, remember ‘Surges not contractions’ and print off your affirmations to post around the delivery room walls. Something along the lines of ‘Opening like a flower‘ or ‘ If in doubt, breathe out’.

Show him how to massage the sacrum of your back during those difficult times of your labour, you may want to consider using aromatherapy oils such as Lavender or Chamomile which are relaxing especially if your Mum or William are getting a little stressed! Drop a few drops onto a tissue and let them have a whiff, this should do the trick. Perhaps this would be a good time to consider trying some perineal massage.

Make sure William knows how to use the TENS machine and can stick the pads on your back without him electrocuting himself! Could be a bit embarrassing for him and you. Not one to tell the Queen. I’m sure you have already, but pack your labour bag, Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream, a wide headband and a pillow are just a few essentials you will definitely need. And not forgetting the all important food bag, especially for William. A strapping lad like him needs to be topped up regularly with high energy snacks; Pot Noddles, a few bananas perhaps and some Lucozade for you to sip to keep you going. (bendy straws, don’t forget the bendy straws!)

Music! We know how much you and William are partial to a little groove once in a while so make a great playlist. You may be inspired here from some of my and my readers suggestions. Number 8 and 11 were particularly good through those final pushes!

Last but not least, remember to take photos! If William is down the business end, get your Mum to take them. Obviously these won’t be the ones The Palace will want to release. But the first one of you with the baby skin to skin and looking like well like you’ve just given birth is very special. Perhaps Instagram it, a nice filter should do the trick.

Sending you lots of positive birthing vibes Kate, and I do hope you achieve the natural birth you so want. I have a feeling your Obstetrician may not be so up for a water birth or Hypno-birth but you never know. One last suggestion, maybe consider a midwife looking after you. One you know, have a good trusting relationship with, one that will support all your choices and treat you like a normal low risk pregnant woman. You could even have a home birth at your parents house, in the private environment you so deserve.  Just like the soon to be Great Grandmother did. If home birth is good enough for The Queen, it’s good enough for the heir to the throne.

Let me know if you change your mind, I may know a few great midwives that could help.

Best Wishes